Norma Pantoja knows first hand the value of culturally specific education and child care.
Originally from Mexico, Norma moved to Medford, Oregon 22 years ago with her husband.
“I had to learn the language, I had to learn to drive – I had to learn how to do everything,” she said. “Just imagine – someone is trying to talk to you but you just don’t understand.”
Though it was a difficult transition, Norma began to learn English through ESL classes and had the opportunity to take classes on early childhood education in Spanish. She began her career in child care and education as a teaching assistant in a Preschool Promise program.
But Norma wanted to do more. Last year, Norma had two exciting opportunities come her way. First, a child care resource program hired Norma as a Quality & Improvement Specialist working with immigrant, Spanish-speaking, child care providers. Then, Norma was offered the opportunity to take part in the Oregon Child Care Alliance (OCCA), a pilot program led by Neighborhood House which aims to support child care businesses across the state through business resources, training, and community building.
“The Oregon Child Care Alliance is really needed,” Norma said. “Providers didn’t have control or understanding of their business or administration. This program will support them in this area.”
Norma is right about the necessity of the OCCA. Every county in Oregon is considered a “child care desert,” meaning that for every licensed child care slot, there are two or more children requiring care. The OCCA will build stronger child care businesses, which will in turn allow providers to care for more children. This program will also improve the quality of care provided.
The providers that Norma works with serve mostly bilingual children in Southern Oregon. Norma said of the Spanish-speaking providers she works with, “I know their struggles. I’ve been in their field. I am hoping that this program will bring strategies and tools to be successful and build their confidence as business owners.”
Norma isn’t the only one supporting the new Oregon Child Care Alliance. Read our Winter Newsletter for more information on this exciting program!